Let’s talk about the new Acura Integra and how to fix it

With a name like Integra, expectations were bound to be high. But we don’t think Honda knew just how high they would be, especially from enthusiasts who still have an enormous amount of love for the trio of original Integra generations and the RSX. If you watched the live reveal video on YouTube, the chat section was a wall of vomit emojis and hate.

On the outside, the Integra is just a lightly reskinned 2022 Civic Si, a car that has also grown pretty huge since the last truly beloved version, the EM1 (or even the less loved but still good EP Civic Si). Acura hasn’t said anything about specs so we don’t know if it’ll have any more power than the Si. Without any additional information it’s hard to judge the car on anything other than its looks and name, and it seems that Honda is asking that name to carry a lot of weight.

Honda even produced this video, which shows some really cool older Integras, but man, is it hard to watch. Whoever put this together obviously knew something about Integras and which ones to assemble. There’s Type Rs in their iconic Phoenix Yellow and Championship White colors, a DA GS-R in Aztec Green, a Supersonic Blue DC GS-R (arguably the most desirable color of that generation outside the Type R), and even what appears to be a rare all-white Special Edition first-generation. If modified, they’re all clean.

But, the editing and production are just so cringe-inducing. It’s like it was made by a bunch of old dads trying to appeal to “the youths.” Shown right before the car made its on-stage debut, it’s the first clue that Acura is trying too hard to capitalize on the Integra name and 90s sentimentality.

And then there’s the shape itself. It looks passable at some angles but, egads, the side view shows just how bloated new cars have become. Even the cheeseball black decal along the rocker panels can’t slim down its vertical mass. It’s not the presence of four doors that’s unsettling; all Integras except the RSX had four-door variants, even the revered DC GS-R and Type R, albeit the latter in Japan only.

Sure, the new Civic Si will run rings around its EM1 predecessor, but power is — and never was — what made an Integra. It was the impossibly low cowl, the incredible visibility, and the feeling of utter road command that they offered. Add to that laser precision throttle control from an instant-response high-revving engine and a silk-smooth 90s Honda gearbox, and you had a machine that you could confidently place anywhere on the road or track. That was the Integra ethos.

We suspect this is what enthusiasts allege the new Integra is lacking. Again, we don’t know what’s beneath the hood, but the bulging bodywork simply does not convey a car that is your driving partner.

The question, we guess, is why did we expect anything different? Honda is dying in Japan. All its iconic nameplates are gone, even the JDM Odyssey, and the only models that really sell are its kei cars, and even the coolest ones will soon be gone. America is by far Honda’s strongest market, so it must build cars for America’s tastes (and the share platforms on those cars).

Still, for a brief moment we were duped into thinking that the Integra could be something cool. That Honda might pull something incredible out of its arsenal and give us a lightweight performance coupe on a dedicated, purpose-built platform. If anything, it makes us appreciate cars like the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 and ND Mazda Miata even more.

Despite all this we think there’s a way Acura can save this car, and the answer is so simple it takes only three letters: TSX. The first TSX had that old 90s Honda magic, even though it was introduced in 2004, and it came in a stick! It was one of the last Honda/Acura greats, and the new Integra’s dimensions are really close:

2004 TSX / 2023 Integra:
Wheelbase: 105.1 in / 107.7 in
Length: 183.3 / 183.3 in
Width: 69.4 / 70.9 in
Height: 57.3 / 55.7 in

They have the exact same length, and the Integra has a slightly longer wheelbase and is actually lower, which is good. The TSX was a highly regarded, sharp-handling sports sedan, too. It’s all about expectations. By calling it an Integra, you raise hopes impossibly high. By calling it a TSX you give people a total surprise in this day an age: a light, compact sport sedan with a stick!

It’s too late for Acura to back down now. They’ve hyped up the Integra so much and built a whole story around it. Also, they probably think the letters will be too close to TLX. The Integra still might be a great car, but Honda must be feeling the sting right now. People were so excited back in August when they flashed the name “Integra” and they were probably feeling pretty good about the positive vibes. Now, loyal Honda-heads feel betrayed. It just goes to show, heritage and nameplates are not to be taken lightly.

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23 Responses to Let’s talk about the new Acura Integra and how to fix it

  1. Dave Patten says:

    When I read news of the Integra re-boot, I was excited. When I saw the release video, I got depressed that it was a utilitarian 5 door hatch.

    If you want a hot 5 door, buy a Civic SI. Acura needs to make the Integra a sportier looking 3 door, even if it’s nothing more than a Civic underneath.

  2. Andre says:

    First, the TSX was a Euro/Japanese-spec Accord imported under the Acura moniker to the US.

    Second, being that TSX came with double-wishbones all around, and is a most important single thing that made our beloved golden age Honda’s stand out in the first place*, there’s simply no comparison to the new Integra other than their size.

    *because lets admit without the F1-derived suspension design, the Honda’s that we love would be like any other FWDs with only a decent engine i.e. Sentra SE-R’s, Corolla GT-S’, etc.

  3. Shibuya says:

    Does this mean there is a Honda Crosstour Type R in the future?

  4. CycoPablo says:

    Honda is funny like that. Their strength used to be their sentimentality — witness the S2000 for example. The S660 followed that ethos, and was a huge success.

    However, they all too often “phone-it-in” which is just a symptom of a tougher market.

  5. Senator Chinchilla says:

    It really needs to be a coupe, not a sedan. The big, upright front grille isn’t fitting for a sports car at all. It’s almost as bad as BMW omega kidneys.

  6. NotNow says:

    Looks like every other boring 4 door sedan. What a waste of a great name. At least it comes in a manual. They got that part right.

  7. RainMeister says:

    I blame Honda’s American design studio. They’ve had a streak of ugliness or bland for quite a while now. The last Hondas, aside from the S2000, that truly caught my eye were those from the late ’80s. Since then we’ve had abominations like that CrossTour. Even the current NSX design lacks the uniqueness of the original, or an excitement factor (but then, all of today’s supercars are gaudy and pretentious). They couldn’t even do retro correctly, when they debuted that ugly CR-Z, which I was really excited about until it came out. Honda may have lost the plot when Soichiro left us.

  8. Shaun says:

    Can someone help me with pictures of the new Integra? I can’t find any and when I search google it brings up this new 5dr Kia, which looks like it will only be sold in South Korea.

  9. Clay says:

    The TSX couldn’t accommodate the required side airbags, as I recall.

  10. speedie says:

    If you told me a year ago that Acura would offer a small four door hatchback with the Civic SI drivetrain, including a 6-speed manual, I would say bring it on. Now that it is here I applaud Acura for doing it. Complain all you like about it not being a two-door, etc. This is a significant investment by Honda to spread the cost of development and tooling for the Si and Type R that will allow it to do more investment in the future. The audience for this is the person with a family who wants the Acura luxury badge over the Honda badge who does not want to give up any of the fun factor. I hope Acura sells as many of these as they can produce.

    • Sammy B says:

      Agree. I’m a middle aged dad and like the idea of a Civic Si with a bit more refinement/luxury and slightly more conservative looks. This hits the mark for me, especially since no more 6MT Accord. I’m not buying an automatic ever, so while this isn’t a grand slam of amazingness, I’m happy it exists.

  11. Sammy B says:

    I think I’ll have an unpopular opinion here, but I’m fine with this. Yes, it’s not amazing, but it’s basically what we expect now. New Simpsons episodes are never going to be as good as the old ones. It’s a fact.

    If Acura does have a “base” Integra, which is more or less a Civic Si in a tux, then this hits that mark I suppose. I like my 2015 ILX 2.4L 6MT for that same reason…..though it’s a LSD away from greatness.

    The real test will be what they do with their Type S version. Ideally, it should be a detuned Civic Type R.

    I think what they really screwed up with here is showing only the “mild” version Integra, but using colors, graphics, and language that this is somehow a throwback to the GS-R or Type R models. It’s clearly not. CLEARLY NOT. They confused the marketing message and totally missed the mark. The Integra always had that split personality of a “maturing working dude” (base model) and “boy racer” (sportier models). They tried to hit them both with this launch and ended up hitting nothing.

    Now that there’s no more Accord 6MT, this is likely my next new car.

  12. BlitzPig says:

    Thanks for this post Ben. Needed to be said. But we are past the point where American Honda can do anything about it. With the car finalized for production it cannot be changed now. Sadly. Probably they should just quietly drop production plans and move on.

    As I mentioned I had already, through a friend, made overtures to our local Acura dealer for the new Integra, well now that I’ve seen it, that is off the table. I guess we all should have been ready for disappointment when they started talking about “active lifestyle”, code for suburban family car to take the kids to the soccer match.

    And for the record, I am a senior citizen that will never be old enough for a 4 door.

    • Ben Hsu says:

      I really don’t like to dwell on the negative, but in this case the feeling of betrayal from enthusiasts, of which I am one, was overwhelming.

      After thinking about it over the weekend, if there is a ray of hope, I’d say that modern Honda does seem very keen on listening to enthusiasts. A lot of changes to newer models, like the volume knob on their shared infotainment units, or the styling of the facelifted Ridgeline are direct responses to criticism from customers. I’m sure Honda is listening, and while it would be great if they came out of the gates getting it right to begin with, hopefully this means they will take corrective measures.

      • BlitzPig says:

        I hope you are right. That said I think it’s almost too much to hope for that Honda will return to the days when even their lowest priced base Civic hatch was good looking and fun to drive.

        Honda is charting a new course now, and if the Acura survey about electric cars that I got the other day is any indication, they are cutting ties with their enthusiast base. This is a hard pill to swallow for a Honda guy of many decades like me. Will I be forced to hold my nose and purchase a GR 86 in spite of it’s Subaru engine? God I hope not…

      • Renaldo J says:

        IDK if Honda cares for the enthusiasts because Manual sales are barely a percentage point, and in half the states in this country the CR-V is either number 1 or 2 versus the RAV4 on the “most sold vehicle” lists.

        The people who write on r/cars, or jalopnik, this site, or even leave YouTube comments are NOT the target market and idk if there’s anything we can do about it as long as people keep buying CUV/SUVs with CVTs and front-bias AWD.

      • Ben Hsu says:

        The appetite for CUVs and SUVs is certainly the main problem, but Acura isn’t Honda. They have to carve out a niche and they don’t need to meet the same sales numbers as Honda. I’m not sure if the Integra can ever meet enthusiast’s expectations, even if it gets another generation, but I’m trying to be hopeful. Honda does listen.

  13. nlpnt says:

    What needs to be done, is for the internet commentariat to realize they’re looking at the successor to the Integra LS not the Type R. That will come later (if people buy).

  14. BlitzPig says:

    That thing doesn’t look like the ’89 RS that I had, not one bit. When you say “Integra” to someone they see the Quint Integra, or one of the coupes that were sold in North America.
    Not one enthusiast driver thinks of the four door sedan Integra. None of my enthusiast friends, and I have lots of them, that has seen the new Integra has anything good to say about it, and most of them have brought up it’s resemblance to the late, unlamented Accord Crosstour.

    Honda has jumped the shark here. There is no way they can make this car right, except to bin it and start over, and we all know that isn’t going to happen.

  15. Azfer says:

    Take out the back doors. I definitely wasn’t expecting the new Integra to be a four door. Leave the practicality mission to the Civic

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